Naginata is the study of the use of a sword-like weapon, similar to the European halberd or glaive.  While originally a weapon of war, the naginata now has both a form appropriate for modern competitive sport as well as a wooden form (somewhat less lethal than the original steel one) for the safe study of the ancient forms.

Pictures of three different types of naginata. On the top, the solid wooden naginata used for kata practice; in the middle, the bamboo (and wood) naginata used in competition in modern naginata, and on the bottom, a 'live blade' steel naginata. (The live blade naginata is used extremely rarely today.)


A rather long wooden naginata used in classical naginata practice. (Photo courtesy of Koryu Books.)

There are two types of naginata practice today: modern naginata and classical naginata. While the differences between these two types of practice are explained below, they also share much in common. In both, naginata practice is systemized according to a time-honored tradition consisting of strikes, cuts, and thrusts from left and right to various directions, providing a balanced training with emphasis on form and beauty of movement.

 

Modern Naginata

Most of 80,000 people who study naginata today study the modern sport form of naginata, called atarashi naginata in Japanese.  While modern naginata encompasses many of the aspects of competitive sports (tournaments, championships, teams, and physical education-like training) it is still a Japanese martial art and thus stresses the mental and moral development of its trainees.  Those who instruct in modern naginata are not merely coaches, but also leaders who seek to develop the character and personalities of their students - both by their example and by drawing on the rich and long heritage of naginata.
All who study modern naginata participate in two different types of practice: a tournament-like form which uses protective equipment and a naginata in which the blade portion is made of bamboo. Points are scored in this type of practice for strikes to the head, throat, torso, wrists, and shins.


An international naginata tournament held in Japan in August, 1995. Coincidentally, in this particular match, both competitors and the referee are all Americans.

 

The other type of practice for modern naginata is kata, a highly stylized and choreographed practice with a partner in which the full beauty of naginata is shown. A special naginata of solid wood is often used in kata. Kata training helps to perfect technique and develop deep concentration.


A naginata kata being practiced.

Classical Naginata

Classical naginata styles are among the martial traditions of feudal Japan. They have remained unchanged for literally hundreds of years. Unlike modern naginata, classical naginata has no competitions. Instead, classical naginata styles are practiced as prearranged choreographed forms (kata), often performed at great speed and strength, and always with great precision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A demonstration of Tendo Ryu Naginata-jutsu in Japan. Here the naginata is being used against a sword.

 


A Higo Koryu Naginata-jutsu demonstration in Japan in the spring of 1997. Here both are using naginata. (Photo courtesy of Koryu Books.)


A Toda-ha Buko-ryu Naginata-jutsu demonstration in Japan in the fall of 1996. Here both are using naginata. (Photo courtesy of Koryu Books.)

 


A Toda-ha Buko-ryu Naginata-jutsu demonstration in Japan in the fall of 1996. Here the naginata is being used against a spear. (Photo courtesy of Koryu Books.)


Naginata Today

Naginata, along with the many other martial arts of Japan, has a long history of tradition continuing ceaselessly through countless generations.  Now we have reached an age where Naginata as grown to an international scale, and there are Naginata organizations in many parts of the world.


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Last modified on 4 July 1997.